The next morning, I asked everyone to gather in the kitchen area for a meeting.
I took a deep breath, pushing aside the guilt for the moment. This was for the best, for everyone. "Yesterday Mom and I talked about Lucy, and she agreed we need to take Lucy somewhere away from vampires for a while. I think we can all agree that Lucy's health doesn't look too good."
Murmurs of agreement from the group. Mom stared down at Lucy, who was yapping out a hoarse cough from her arms.
"Mom?" I asked.
She nodded. "I know. Lucy needs a break."
"Right. So I talked to Anne, and she talked to Michelle and Michelle's mom, and they agreed to keep Lucy for us so she can get better."
Mom's mouth tightened as her lower lip trembled. But she didn't argue.
She didn't have to say a thing. I still felt like crap. "So we need to plan a trip back to Texas," I finished, feeling like the world's worst daughter.
Hang in there, Sav. Tristan squeezed my hand, his eyes soft with understanding. I know this is hard. But it really is the right thing to do. Your mom will see that, too, eventually.
Before or after she cries buckets of tears from losing her dog and her job and her home to our invasion? I stared at a spot of spilled coffee that was quickly turning into a stain on the tan countertop where Mom must have set her spoon earlier.
"Good," Dad said, leaning a hip against the edge of the kitchen counter. "This will give me a chance to restock our blood supply."
All of us looked at him with frowns of surprise and confusion.
His eyebrows shot up. "Surely you have noticed the rapidly dwindling supply?"
I hadn't really. I'd been too caught up in trying to play peacemaker between Emily and Mom and upset about Tristan and the distance between us.
Dad sighed. "At any rate, we are nearly out of blood and must restock very soon. So a return trip to East Texas will allow me to meet with my supplier there and pick up a large enough quantity to hold us over for a while longer."
Mom's frown deepened into an all-out scowl. "Why can't you get blood from somebody around here? Don't you have suppliers all over the U.S.?"
"I used to. But I have already attempted to contact them without success. They may have gone into hiding now that war has broken out. My East Texas supplier is the only one whose number is even still working."
"Okay, so then why don't you have him ship the stuff to us here?"
"Because," Dad said in a tone that showed he was struggling for patience. "The mere fact that my East Texas supplier is the only one still willing to speak to me makes me question whether he has been compromised by the Clann. If he has been, then I have no desire for him to know where we are currently hiding, in case he tips them off."
"Then have him do a blind drop instead."
"If he has been compromised, that will not afford any additional protection for us. The Clann could still be there waiting for us to pick up the supplies. Plus, meeting with my supplier face-to-face will allow me to directly and immediately ascertain whether he has been compromised. Since he is human, he is particularly vulnerable. However, a quick read of his mind when we meet will either reassure me or inform me that I need to find a new supplier should we ever desire to permanently take up residence in East Texas again someday."
Oh, of course. He needed to meet with his supplier in person because none of us could read minds, human or otherwise, over the phone.
I wondered if all blood suppliers for the vamps were human. Maybe that made it easier for them to work around lots of donated blood in health care jobs without losing control and going on a bender like a vamp might?
Mom's eyes f lared wide then narrowed. "That is really dumb, Michael. If your supplier has been compromised, then meeting with him in person is the worst thing you could do!"
At the angry tone of her owner's voice, Lucy began to bark in earnest, her entire body jerking with the effort.
Dad glanced at me then cleared his throat. "Perhaps we should discuss this further outside without an audience. Or the dog present."
Mom rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. Like Savannah hasn't heard us argue before? She's a big girl and she knows we don't get along. She can handle the truth."
"Actually, I really don't mind being left out of this," I said, rubbing my forehead, which was starting to pound. I couldn't tell if the growing headache was coming from having to sit in on yet another argument or the dog's barking.
Mom huffed. "Fine!" She threw open her bedroom door, shut Lucy into the room, then whirled around to face Dad. "Please, by all means, lead the way." She threw an arm out wide toward the trailer door.
Dad's face darkened into a scowl. Silently he exited the trailer with Mom hot on his heels.
The door had barely banged back into its frame before Mom started yelling.
"Would you at least attempt to keep your voice down?" Dad hissed, his voice carrying right through the trailer's thin metal walls and windows. "We do have neighbors who might not want to have to endure this discussion with us."
I slouched down on the dinette seat until the back of my head met the top of the seat back. I used to be so lucky that my parents were divorced and never saw each other. I really missed those days.
"Do I look like I care?" Mom said, but at least her voice dropped to a harsh whisper. "Look, all I'm saying is we need to stick together and avoid any kind of traps the Clann might have set up for us. You have no idea what they're capable of. Did you know Mr. Williams has buddies in the CIA? They have access to all kinds of technology now...satellites, drones, you name it! They could easily be listening for any mention of you anywhere in East Texas right now!"
"Or even listening to us right here right now," Dad muttered.
Mom must have missed his attempt at humor, because her voice dropped to a whisper. "In a state park in South Dakota? You must be joking."
"Actually I was-"
Mom railroaded right over him. "My point is, what if you call your supplier and their satellites or whatever overhear your conversation? They don't even have to mess with your supplier directly in order to compromise him. They could just listen to you two plan to meet and then lie right there in wait for you to show up. And then where would I-I mean, our daughter be? She needs her father, now more than ever. None of us can afford to be stupid and risk getting caught."
"I know that, Joan. Please do give me some credit. My supplier and I always speak in code. The conversation would not contain any words likely to alert any eavesdroppers as to our real identities or intentions."
Mom growled under her breath, clearly not mollified in the least.
So Dad dropped the ultimate bomb of reason on her. "I understand this is frightening for you. But do try to remember the blood is not just for me and Tristan. Our daughter also needs this to survive."
"Oh, he's good," Tristan muttered.
I f lashed him a tired smile. "He learned from the best in the guilt-trip business. He lived with my mother for three years."
One side of Tristan's mouth tilted up in a half smile, making my heart lurch.
Mom must have conceded defeat during Tristan's and my short exchange, because the trailer door opened and my parents came back in.
"Kids, buckle up. We're headed to Texas," Mom muttered. "Sav, honey, you'll need to call Anne and get her to arrange a meeting for you with Michelle. Have your dad figure out what time we'll arrive and a good meeting place."
From the couch with her eyebrows raised, Emily silently handed me my phone, which showed one of her new pregnancy ebooks on the screen. I closed the ebook reader program then searched through my contacts list for Anne.
"For safety, I believe we should split into two groups once we arrive in East Texas," Dad said.
I looked up in surprise.
"If there is any risk of the Clann showing up at my meeting with my supplier, then it would be foolish to hand every member of our group over to them at once."
"If they do show up, you're going to need help," I said.
"Which is why Tristan will come with me and you ladies will continue on to do the dog exchange," Dad said.
Now my heart was really racing. I opened my mouth to argue, but Tristan was faster.
"He's right, Sav," Tristan said. "Like you said, your dad shouldn't go alone. And it's too high-risk for all of us to be there together."
"Whoa, hang on a second," Emily protested. "I don't want you there either, little brother. Remember, they want you even more than him."
"Yeah, but he's got to have some kind of magical backup," Tristan said. "We have no idea what kind of spells they could try to use on him."
My stomach twisted and rolled. I didn't like this at all.
Tristan stared at me. "It's the safest way."
"Why don't we get blood from somewhere else?" I said. "There's got to be all kinds of blood banks around. Couldn't we just break into one and-"
"And risk tipping off the Clann as to our whereabouts?" Dad said.
I let out a long, slow breath through my nose. I saw their logic. But it didn't make me like the plan any more.
"We need this, Sav," Tristan murmured. "You, me, your dad. We all need this."
Suddenly I sort of understood my mother's less-thanmature reaction of a few minutes ago, because part of me really wanted to stomp and yell and argue at the top of my lungs.
Instead I pressed my lips together hard, letting the small bit of pain distract me, and nodded.
Logically I could see that this was probably the only good plan we could come up with right now. But that didn't mean I had to like it.